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Cycling: Women

Volume 779: debated on Tuesday 21 February 2017


Tabled by

My Lords, with the permission of the House I beg leave to move the Question standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. He has been delayed returning from the Scilly Isles. Some people will do anything to avoid the Brexit debate.

My Lords, I am sure I speak for all noble Lords in wishing him a speedy return. This Government are committed to increasing participation in cycling and to making it the natural choice for short journeys or as part of a longer trip. We reaffirmed our commitment to cycling and walking by committing in the 2015 spending review over £300 million for cycling over the five years of the spending review period. This investment supports initiatives that will encourage more women to get cycling, such as the provision of new cycle infrastructure and training.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. Does he agree that the Government could do a bit more? Given the number of recent deaths of women cyclists in London, there is still fear and concern among women. Does the Minister agree that supporting local groups which encourage women to cycle would be a good start in helping to increase the number of women cyclists? I should have declared an interest as secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group and a regular cyclist. After all, every new cyclist on the road, if they usually drive a diesel car, would be a double bonus.

I of course acknowledge the noble Lord’s enthusiasm for cycling—and, indeed, his professionalism. As I was leaving the House yesterday, I noticed the noble Lord in his fluorescent jacket and attire. He is quite right: there is always more to be done to encourage cycling, and the Government have invested a great deal in encouraging local schemes. The noble Lord will also be aware that we are shortly to publish our new cycling and walking infrastructure investment strategy, which will underline support for local initiatives such as the noble Lord has mentioned.

My Lords, as a former chairman of the All-Party Cycling Group, I welcome the increase in cycling which is evident on our streets—both men and women. Does my noble friend agree that an increase in cycling can play its part—only a part—in reducing not just congestion but the frightful air pollution in our cities?

I agree with my noble friend that encouraging the greater use of any form of sustainable transport is a positive way of tackling air quality issues. The Government have worked hand in glove with both the previous mayor and current mayor here in the city of London on initiatives to encourage cycling.

Thank you. Women cyclists are proportionately more likely to be injured or killed than men. The overwhelming majority of cycling accidents and fatalities involve vehicles, disproportionately lorries. What action are the Government taking to ensure that the latest and most effective safety features are adopted for all lorries on our roads and not just the newest ones?

The noble Baroness is right to raise the issue of such fatalities, of which there were 100 in 2015. The figures show that lorries account for some 5% of transport on British roads, but they account for about 19% of fatalities. She will be pleased to hear that the Government have encouraged the use of all the latest technology. From 1 July last year, new lorries now incorporate the new safety mirrors which give an extended rear view of any cyclist approaching from either side.

My Lords, as someone who used to represent the city of Bristol in the other place, I commend to the Minister the work of Sustrans, which 25 years ago was promoting, particularly in schools, safe cycle routes and cycling all over the country. What support do the Government give to Sustrans?

I can assure the noble Baroness that I know the work of Sustrans. When I was a councillor in Wimbledon, as part of my brief as the cabinet member for environment, I and others undertook a safer cycling programme in Wimbledon Park with Sustrans. The Government continue to invest in safer cycling, particularly for children. As the noble Baroness will be aware, we are investing over £50 million in the Bikeability schemes, which will ensure safer and more secure cycling for over 1.3 million children.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that a major obstacle to safe cycling on many of our roads is the very poor quality of road surfaces and the large number of potholes? In my own experience as a regular cyclist in the city of Oxford, one spends a good deal of time dodging potholes, and therefore exposing oneself to greater risk from traffic accidents. If he does agree, can he do anything to encourage local authorities, when they invest in road repairs, to prioritise improving the surfaces for cyclists?

The noble Lord will be aware that the Government have committed to extra funding to deal with potholes. He mentioned the city of Oxford, which is benefiting from extra funding as a Cycle City Ambition city, along with Birmingham, Bristol, Newcastle, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester and Norwich. The funding in Cycle City Ambition cities amounts to £10 per head, which is a substantial increase on the £2 per head figure in 2010, and a major step forward from the £6 per head we see elsewhere in the country.

My Lords, a few years ago, I had a bicycle with very small wheels and I was allowed to ride on the pavement. Does that still apply?

I am not sure whether my noble friend still has her bicycle and is asking whether she will still be allowed. I am sure we all welcome her cycling aspirations, be it on a cycle with large or small wheels. There is still a law on the statute which prevents cycling on pavements, and there are some important aspects to this. Of course, when that law was enacted, cycling was not as widespread as it is today. An increasing number of children are cycling and if that law were applied in full, even they would perhaps be penalised. I am sure that no one in your Lordships’ House would want to see that.